Special Teams Game Planning and Practice Preparation

Oct 26, 2020 | Special Teams, Program Development, Self-Scout

By Bobby Ramsay
Head Football Coach
Mandarin High School (FL)
Twitter: @Mandarin_hs_fb



Planning, installation, teaching, efficiency. All of these are things that as coaches we must take into consideration on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. It is especially important that when organizing your game planning template for the season, that you include special teams. We believe very much at Mandarin that to be as prepared as possible to win on game day, your special team's planning must be done in a way detailed way, much like your offense of defense. We also believe that applying that plan in an efficient way that prepares your players, focuses on what wins’ games, and keeps your coaches and players fresh is the best approach to getting optimal results in practice and ultimately in the game as well. As a head coach who does not call the offense or defense, I believe that allows me to take ownership of the special teams’ game planning, easing some of the burdens on the rest of my staff. It is critical though that you are detailed, that you not only scout and critique the opponent but yourself as well, and ultimately apply this in practice in a way that allows you to maximize your reps, simplify it for your players, and communicate the plan clearly

Key rules/situations you must cover with your players:

  1. Onside Kick
  2. Onside Recover
  3. FG no timeouts left
  4. Taking a safety
  5. Punting backed up
  6. Pinning the opponent on punt
  7. Pooch Return
  8. Squib Return
  9. Pooch Kick
  10. Squib Kick
  11. Fair Catch
  12. Peter Calls – everyone gets away from the ball
  13. What is a live ball?
  14. What is a dead ball?
  15. PAT/FG Fake
  16. Defending PAT/FG Fake
  17. Fire Call
  18. Defense Safe
  19. Punt Fake
  20. Not fielding a punt inside your 10-yard line
  21. Not letting the ball hit the ground on a kickoff return
  22. Swinging Gate Defense


Now, not all these situations require special drills or special portions of practice. For example, reviewing what is a live ball and what is a dead ball is done simply by asking your special team that you are working on to tell you what is a live ball or what is a dead ball. This way if a ball is blocked or muffed they know if the ball can be advanced by the offensive team, or if they should get away from the ball as a possession has changed and the ball cannot be advanced unless someone on the defensive team touches it. This clip is a good example of players knowing this.

In this clip, we have our FG attempt blocked. However, as you see, the ball is picked up by our holder, who knows that the ball is live and immediately begins to advance the ball, which he runs in for a touchdown. Also, some of the situations do not come up every week, you may only see Swinging Gate once or twice if at all. So, don't think that this is overwhelming, and as the season goes on simple reminders for a lot of these are all your needs. But it can be the difference between a win and a loss